Music has been with me from my youngest years. Not because I’m any sort of musician, but rather because I grew up in a home with an appreciation for a wide array of music. Music has been a steady friend of mine through the ups and downs of life.
When I turned nine, I received a pink boombox with a Footloose cassette tape. I believed myself a rock star. At age ten, my oldest sister, Sue, took me to my first concert, Alabama, laying a bedrock for my long-time love of country music. Around this same time, I joined chorus and stayed with it through college. Chorus was friendship, wonderful singing and loads of laughter. On the other hand, I also had a brief and ugly encounter with the clarinet in middle school. When I found myself unable to keep step in a terribly unfashionable band outfit down Main Street, I knew band and I were not a good fit. Jim Croce records meant it was time to clean the house. Dinner music serenaded us nightly. Jazz, classical or easy listening, various tunes settled over us as we ate. College welcomed the felt lyrics of Sarah McLachlan and Fiona Apple. During a brief stint working for my dad in college, Willie Nelson strummed in our ears. Every time I hear Van Halen, I think of the gritty newspaper I worked at in my twenties. And, when I met my husband, Billy Joel became very important. Yes, music has been in the backdrop of my life: understanding my plight, giving me encouragement and bringing fun to the moment.
What is it about music helping us to remember moments of our lives? It may be the lyrics of a song or the instruments playing the melody reminding us of where we stood. It may be the flare of the harmony or the depth of emotion evoking our past. Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about the rhythm of music. What does rhythm add to a song? I reached out to my niece, Kate, a junior at the Eastman School of Music and asked her to tell me the importance of rhythm in a song. She said, “Rhythm is a vital part to any song; it keeps the song moving.”
Easy enough. The rhythm in a song moves the tune from beginning to end. When I take the idea of rhythm and consider it for my life, I am intrigued. If rhythm is vital to a song, then it makes perfect sense to say it is also vital to our lives. But, what does a healthy life rhythm look like?
One beauty of a school (or work) calendar is how it creates a schedule for us. However, a schedule is not the same thing as a rhythm. A schedule is task-oriented. Sure, a schedule moves you along, but it is at the command of yourself, another, or the system telling you it’s time to get going. In the past, I’ve gotten caught in the schedule trap. I plan my day to a tee – like a robot I arise, drink my coffee, grab a devotion book, read, get dressed and ready my kids for school. I move through my day with a certain control over exactly how my day will unfold. It feels safe. Certain. The next day arrives, and like the movie Groundhog Day, I go through similar motions. My schedule is controlled, but day after day of the same thing leaves me disconnected.
On the other hand, when I give up the schedule entirely, I am off. These are the days the rush of the morning comes as a surprise, like a cold splash of water to my sleepy state. Groaning from children sends me over the edge at 7am. I scurry from place to place attempting to keep up. Or, I lag behind not seeming to get anything done. Where lies the answer? Possibly, in the rhythm of our lives.
A rhythm of life is the heartbeat of a life lived with intention. Rhythms change – some days are up tempo, some are a slow crawl. When we respond from the inside out rather than reacting to outside circumstances, we lose the schedule, and invite the rhythm. Balance is a welcome friend. We wake up to our lives, engaging our day in a new way.
Asking becomes paramount. How will prayer accompany me this day? Do I connect with God through reading, exercise, or silence? Is time with a friend or a fun activity needed to restore God connection? Can I breathe deep at the top of each hour? Simply writing a few lines of gratitude may be something my soul needs this day.
How am I tending to work this day? Am I able to give my work its full attention, not letting thoughts rob me of the moment? How is my rhythm with those I work with? If I am introverted, can I boldly begin conversation in a group setting? If I am extroverted, can I restore balance by seeking quiet after a meeting? How is my tone of voice getting my message across? Am I able to offer my vantage point but also allow another to speak theirs without interruption?
How am I inviting rest into my day? What does my body need? To walk, drink more water, eat? A few extra minutes of sleep? Can I put aside the rigidity of three meals a day to tune into if my body is actually hungry? Do I taste the coffee I sip? When my body aches, do I put aside time to rest or do I keep plowing ahead? When my body is tight, do I take the time to stretch?
How do I invite curiosity this day? Am I able to fit a few minutes of reading to learn something new? Do I take a different route to my local hangout to alert my sense? Can I simply engage others by asking what they, themselves, learned this day? Where can I find laughter?
When I take time to install rhythm in my life to care for myself, I am better able to serve others. When I balance my day with healthy elements, then, I am able to put my iPhone away to tune into others’ needs and stories. Then, I am able to listen offering compassion rather than advice. Then, I have margin in my life to respond to a need when it comes my way.
Honestly, I am only beginning to learn about healthy daily rhythms*. I notice and implement one tiny step at a time awakening to the vitality of what a rhythm brings. I learn as I go, giving myself permission to add and take away. Some days my rhythm is a flowing stream gently bringing me along. Other days, there is no rhythm, a crazy drum solo gone wrong.
Still, who doesn’t listen and tap along to a song with an awesome rhythm? Our life rhythm is a powerful beat, calling us to listen and tap along. When we’ve tuned into the rhythm of our life, it keeps us moving forward in healthy ways.
“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” – Luke 5:15-16
After Jesus spent time with crowds of people, he withdrew to pray. Do you notice a rhythm in this story? What is one small step you could take to engage a healthier rhythm in your life?
Enjoy the rhythm of Beethoven’s Symphony 7, Movement 2
With a Child:
Listen to a song together and draw the sounds you hear.
* This idea of rhythm is taken from St. Benedict, an honored saint by the Catholic and Anglican churches. To read a brief description of Benedict’s rhythm of daily prayer, click here. This writing was helped along by friends Kate Fridmann, Jennifer Murray, Julia Ledford, Melissa Auten and Lee Warren.